More than bright lights and bestsellers pt. II

On Day 2, I was honestly so surprised to wake up without any ache in my body. What with all the standing and walking we've done in the past twenty-four hours and the fact that I haven't had any form of exercise since my PE classes in college sophomore year, I expected myself to be extremely exhausted, demanding Tito Tan that we stay in for the rest of the weekend. But there I was, happily jumping off from bed and getting myself ready as soon as I heard the alarm. Although we've covered a lot on Friday, there were still a lot of places to go to, and sights to see and take photos of! We were growing wary of the weather, however, since the forecasts called for cloudy skies, with a chance of showers. Nonetheless that wouldn't stop us from exploring New York City!

By foot, we embarked on yet another search for a nice place to eat. It was almost eleven and I could already hear my stomach grumbling. We passed by Madonna's lofty apartment (Imagine living a few blocks away from the diva herself!) before finally deciding to give the quiant coffee shop tucked in the corner of Madison Avenue a try. Other than your dose of caffeine, Nectar Cafe serves your typical American meals and is mostly frequented by locals after their early morning jog around the park. For brunch, Tito and I ordered pancakes, eggs, fries, and bacon, which are primarily my go-to food of all time!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was a must on my list not only because of the famous steps where the Gossip Girls (Blair and her minions) often have lunch, but because it's been so long since I had my humanities fix. As I may have mentioned before, the arts is my guilty pleasure. It would come as a shock to some but back in college, when I'm not busy listening intently to my Introduction to Aesthetics and Great Books professors while scribbling down notes on this and that, I would take solitary trips to the art gallery where I found solace in the paintings and sculptures that surround me. These things further develops my appreciation of the beauty of and in this world. Unfortunately, as we were pressed for time and my mind was already wandering elsewhere (The fast-paced city life is already getting to me!), we breezed through the halls, checked out the more well-known works, snapped a few pictures, took a peek of the city skyline from the rooftop, and dashed off to our next destination.

We took the subway to Downtown Manhattan and made our way to the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge has played huge roles in a couple of movies I've seen: it is usually where lovers would meet, resolve their fight, and from then on live happily ever after. So I wanted to see the bridge for myself and check if there really was some kind of magic to it. That, and because it is a true work of art, has a significant part in history, and is evidently swarmed by tourists like me.

I never really intended to cross it, however, until Tito asked me to. To my surprise it was his first time to walk on the bridge though he has been living in Manhattan for two years now. The first few minutes of our crossing was when the tiredness and pain due to all the walking caught up on me. I had to ask Tito, who is used to the rush, being the true New Yorker that he is, to tone down his pace and that we take our time and enjoy the view. Sadly, there was an ongoing construction and so the walkway had to be covered with all sorts of metal, hindering us from seeing the bridge and New York in all its beauty.

As the sky turned gray and gloomy and I regained my strength after taking a short break on a bench, Tito and I brisk-walked past the streets of Chinatown (which reminded me a lot of Manila) to the shops in SoHo. SoHo has always intrigued me; a lot of my fashion-savvy friends say it's one of the best places to go to when it comes to shopping. And they were right: you could get lost in the endless number of boutiques and outlets there! Tito and I couldn't resist the sales and discounts so we ended up buying a total of five shoes from different stores!

We figured we had to give our wallets some rest and continued walking, only to realize we haven't had lunch or any heavy snack since our rather light brunch at the Upper East Side. Just our luck, we were met with this huge crowd at what looked like a very festive street. Down the road you'd see red brick buildings adorned with colorful signs, while on the sidewalks were open umbrellas and tables of all shapes and sizes laid out. For a moment I wondered where in the world we were but the checkered tablecloth served as the giveaway: we have reached Little Italy!

My heart was full of glee; I am a huge sucker for all things Italian and being there was as close as I could get to Italy, my dream country of all time! They were in the midst of the Feast of San Gennaro, which would explain why everyone was out in the street, enjoying their meals al fresco. Soon Tito and I were entertained by this big elderly man who happened to be the owner of La Mela. He got us a table and served us with our shrimp and scallops pasta. Nothing like authentic Italian cuisine! We left with tasty chocolate gelato in our hands and the hope of being able to come back and see more of what Little Italy had to offer. If not, I guess the real Italy would do! (I wish!)

Grand Central Station was so beautiful, I tried my best to keep my cool and be in my best behavior. I didn't want to be the obvious tourist, browsing every inch of the place while her mouth was wide-open and taking pictures of anything at least three times. But I was exactly that: I can't stop the wows and whoas from coming out. It gave me the same feelings I have when I'm at airports: like I'm on top of the world, able to see everyone, people from all walks of life, and that I'm in control on what lies ahead of me. It brought out the hopeless romantic in me. Tito and I were next to a man who was proposing to the love of his life! There's no place sweeter and more dramatic than terminals and stations. Cliche, but it works.

We returned to the streets of the Upper East Side, bought a few more items from the stores, and made sure to pass by St. Bartholomew Church (where It Takes Two's Alyssa and Amanda helped Diane stop Roger from marrying what would be an evil stepmother) and New York Palace Hotel (home to the Basses and the Van der Woodsens in Gossip Girl) before going back to Tito's apartment. We did the usual round of picture-taking, especially at the Palace. Even their bathrooms looked like suites! I only wish there weren't renovations at that time because the place couldn't have looked any better and true to how it was in the show without the metal bars.

Despite reports, it didn't rain the entire day. And that only meant that fate was on our side. However, for our own good, I requested that instead of pushing our limits and going back to Times Square for the third night in a row, we should stay in, order some Thai food (been craving for something spicy for a long time!), and enjoy a good film. How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days was on TV and I thought it was the perfect movie to watch—set in New York City, revolves around magazine publishing, and centers on dating and relationships. It made me want to dream a little bigger and it was as if I was seeing it for the first time!

Little did we know, though we went to bed earlier than usual, we hadn't slept until it was three in the morning. Tito and I spent the wee hours catching up, talking about family issues (we have a big one!) and plans for the future. It had been one of the most meaningful conversations I've had with anyone so far and I'm looking forward to more for these "true meaning of life" talks, especially when I get to see more of the clan when I come to California. I had thought growing up would be tremendously scary; however, with the right people to back you up, you'd be fine.

On Sunday, Tito and I ventured off to the nearest 1950's-themed diner, Big Daddy's. To our dismay, it was closed down for the weekend due to a construction violation. I got really disheartened upon reading the notice at the door because from the outside looking in, it was the kind of restaurant I'd been wanting to visit. We settled for the diner at the other end of the road but it wasn't as interesting and bursting with life as I had hoped. At least I had the french toast that I asked for... Problem solved.

I bid Times Square goodbye with more clothes-shopping (can't seem to get enough!) and the Broadway area by promising to watch other shows once I have the chance to hop on a New York-bound bus once again. I also took a quick peek of Sardi's, where Finn and Rachel of Glee had a sweet dinner date while they were in the city. Aside from their good-quality food, Sardi's is known for their wall full of caricatures of the famous celebrities that dined there.

And finally, there was my bus ride home. It was more stressful and disappointing than my trip to the city: we left the stop half an hour later than our ETD and the ride itself took an hour and a half longer than what was stated on our itinerary. That, and there was no wi-fi. The only consolation was that I had a kind-hearted Spanish lady for a seatmate who didn't look a day over forty (though she was already in her mid-fifties), fondly called me "sweetie," and selflessly shared her candy treats, her daughter's love for Broadway musicals, and tales about her life when she first came to America and resided in New York.

Indeed it's an entirely different experience to be waking up in the city that never sleeps. For the most part, although the media (be it in books, shows, and movies) depict New Yorkers as—aside from downright workaholics—snobs and rude people, in the little time I spent there and the limited number of people I encountered, I reckon that they aren't exactly so. Instead, they come to me as individuals who are energetic and full of life despite their busy full-time jobs. I guess there's something about the big city that makes them feel alive, and as much as I envy them for it, I must admit that out of curiosity it's something I too want to take part in.

I used to think having dreams of living in NYC is overrated (and sometimes I still do) but after coming over, I now understood why. It isn't necessarily as life-consuming as I had expected it to be; in fact it exudes that. Never mind that it's so crowded and compact; even for its small area, the Big Apple is complete on its own, which makes it so distinct and original. If you can make it here, you can definitely make it anywhere. That said, of course I would visit again in a heartbeat.


  1. Feels like I'm there too! hahaha. been reading again, nang. :)
    Do keep them coming. hahaha.
    God bless you!!:D

  2. Yiheeey! I love the photos :")